How To Start A Career As A Corporate Trainer
I often get asked – what should one do to become a corporate trainer?
This is a valid question since:
- Training isn’t one of the streams you can pick up in college
- There are so many sources of information that it can get quite confusing
- The training fraternity isn’t the most helpful – well, I am going to be blunt here 🙂
So I thought of putting together this post which can help anyone get started in this industry.
I want to talk about the skills required to be a trainer, move on to things one can do to get into the profession and finally throw light on some of the challenges you are likely to face.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A CORPORATE TRAINER
I have people – experienced and freshers – write to me about wanting to become a corporate trainer.
And I have one question to ask you before anything else – WHY?
Some people think experience in the corporate world qualifies them to train people.
Others feel that they have a flair for talking to people and so they want to turn into full time trainers right from the start of their careers.
Start with WHY?
Having been in this industry for almost 2 decades, I can assure you there’s nothing glamorous about being a trainer!
Work is hard to come by, you are as good as your last session and it doesn’t make you rich!
So have a very clear reason why you’d like to go into this profession.
The information in this post should help you make a decision.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
Corporate training is a unique mix of self learning and confidence in public.
Here’s a checklist of the skills you should be 100% sure you possess before you jump into this profession:
I don’t just mean confidence that you can train but also the confidence of public speaking.
Even if you are an introvert, understand that meeting people and working with them is an integral part of being a trainer.
And having seen the way the industry has evolved in the last few years, it is imperative to get extra social. Appear at networking events in order to build your brand as a trainer offline too.
Confidence is also being able to talk well and be able to hold people’s attention while you do that. If facing people gives you the jitters, this isn’t the right career for you.
2. COMMUNICATION SKILLS:
It goes without saying that your communication skills should be flawless, especially if you wish to be a communication and soft skills trainer.
You can not win the trust of your clients if you don’t have command over skills your claim to train in.
As the expert, you are the one who is expected to bring in clarity in communication with the client.
More often than not, the client gives vague details about the training requirements. Your questioning skills need to cull out clarity in their demands.
You also need to be assertive when you talk money or deal with rude participants in the session.
3. WILLINGNESS TO LEARN
Skills for the workplace is not an academic course you can graduate in.
A lot of learning happens on the job – through trial and error.
I’d say willingness to keep yourself updated about latest research and norms is the single most important skill as a trainer.
I’d say that self-learning should be your constant companion.
Read up online, make notes, learn from others’ experiences when you hear about them – are a few ways to keep the learning going.
Don’t just read books that are popular but seek books in your field that people may not have heard of. This will give an edge over the others.
4. ANALYTICAL SKILLS
I feel that there is a lot of analysis and judgement required as part of the job.
There are a lot of questions you need to ask to analyse a training situation.
– What are the exact expectations of the client even if he isn’t able to express it in as many words?
– How much content do you need to develop to cover the duration of the class?
– What kind of activities would work best with the profile group?
– What does class expect when you face them at the beginning of a session?
And during the program:
– Is the session going fine?
– Do you need to tweak it to suit the group better?
As mentioned earlier, you will learn this along the way.
Reading up online and learning from your own and others’ experiences will help a great deal. Sometimes shadowing senior trainers in their sessions also helps, if they let you that is.
5. MARKETING AND SALES
Whether you plan to work on your own or for a training company, I think learning the ropes of business is a must.
Especially if you are planning to work on your own!
How you project your company, what are the brand values, what’s the pitch you use – these are some of the marketing basics you should understand as an entrepreneur.
How to find prospective clients through a sales funnel, how to pitch your program, how to deal with objections and close a sale – these are a few sales basics you should master as a trainer.
This is the a recent skill thrown in the mix! In recent times, personal branding has become one of the most important pillars on which is business stands.
We live in times where we need to reach out to people about what we do – no one is coming to us with work.
You will need branding skills to push your profile forward and find clients for yourself. Linkedin is a great place build your brand and attract work.
This is related to the marketing bit I mentioned earlier. How you build your brand is how you market yourself. Are you a fun brand? Do you have a responsible image? Are you known for your professionalism? All this
Here is a 2 part series on how to build your brand on Linkedin
THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO START AS A CORPORATE TRAINER
1. GET CERTIFIED
We get a job based on the degree we have.
Same goes for training.
The first thing I did when I wanted to start training was to get myself certified as a trainer.
The brilliant Train The Trainer (commonly known as TTT or T3) program at Dale Carnegie was a great course on generic training skills.
It covered all the essentials of being a good and effective trainer. From projecting the right body language to questioning, listening, responding, it equipped me to be a better trainer.
The training was quite impactful and I some of those learnings have become second nature to me.
I talk about Dale Carnegie because I have actually taken their course. There are many more train the trainer options in the market now.
Here’s a post on how to choose the right training certification
Just couple of quick pointers:
– Make sure it is from a known name in the industry since you’ll be associated with it in the long term
– A T3 certificate will get your foot in the door when you start as a trainer. A qualified trainer with no experience is slightly better than a trainer who has neither.
2. DECIDE ON A TRAINING VERTICAL
You are certified in generic training skills.
Now you need to decide what’s your expertise – your niche.
If you have previous experience, you might pick out what you are best in. If you are new, you’ll need to pick topics that you are passionate about.
I started with language related modules because language has been my core expertise. I gradually moved on to taking softs skills and behavioural skills modules (and then, coaching)
I’ve been at it for 17 years and till love it since I am passionate about all forms of communication.
Here is a post on how to choose your training niche
3. PUT YOURSELF IN THE MARKET
And here starts the challenge – go out and find work.
Like I already said, work is never going to walk up to you.
Linkedin is the best place to begin showcasing your profile and network professionally.
Make sure that the content you post and the people you connect with are all aligned with what you do, the services you offer.
Don’t hard sell. Showcase your expertise instead. Don’t tell people you sell a service.
Find out people’s problems and see how your services can solve it for them. Only then people show interest. It’s about what’s in it for them and not what YOU want to sell.
Here is a post on how to write good content for social media
CHALLENGES AS A CORPORATE TRAINER
Every career choice comes with its own set of challenges.
And even more so if you are planning to plunge into an unorganised profession like training.
Let me begin by debunking the most popular myth –
corporate training is not as glamorous as it looks or seems.
It’s one thing to see a smartly dressed trainer waltz into the training room and dazzle everyone with his/her talent.
And a different thing to go through the toil of sweat and grime that goes into making that session appear so seamless.
Here are a few more things you should know before you jump all in:
1. IT CAN BE CONFUSING
There are no standard rules of pitching, content writing and training. You’ll need to learn all this on the job or from experienced trainers.
You’ll find every trainer’s style to be different and none of it is standard practice. Again, trial and error could be your best friend. Although there are so many resources today to make a new trainer’s journey easier.
I have tried to address most problems that new trainers face – and based on my learning and experience of 18 years – through my 4-step trainer mentoring program
2. CONTENT IS A DIFFERENT BALL GAME
How would you create content for participants you haven’t even met?
How much content is enough for 8 hours of delivery?
How does one match the content to the training needs?
You get the drift!
Which is why I said that your communication as an expert is a huge asset here. You need to bring in a lot of clarity from the client so that you can do your part of the job well.
Also, content work is pretty intense and time consuming – especially when you are new.
It involves hours of planning the structure and flow of the session and coming up with activities that will drive home the point.
And then comes creating slides and handouts, designing participant work books and other collaterals that your client might need (or demand)
There is good news though – it does get better! After you’ve done it a few times, you will get into the flow.
After about 12 years in the industry, I started my company and decided that I did not want to do ppts anymore.
But I could do that since my training skills were pretty sharp and I knew I could carry off a session with theory and activities. I did not need the crutch of slides any more.
Luckily, even the clients have evolved. They don’t mind novel methods of training and don’t insist that ppts be apart of the deal.
3. LONG TRAINING HOURS
In all my years of training, I have been asked only once about the physical rigour that goes into conducting a session.
People generally look at the creative side of training and tend to ignore the physical labour involved. Some of you may differ but training for 8 hours in a day can be quite straining on the body and the vocal chords.
Long training hours can be quite strenuous
The trainer needs to not just be on his/her feet, but also remain energetic through out to ensure that the participants’s interest remains unflagging.
When you train for a few consecutive days, it definitely takes a toll on you. So unless you truly enjoy what you do, it’ll be hard to carry on.
4. ONLY THE LAST FEEDBACK SURVIVES
You are only as good as your last training program
There is a feedback form – called happy sheets – at the end of the program to gauge how the session went.
This is just one of Donald Kirkpatrick’s 4 level evaluation model and gauges just the “reaction” of the participants.
It captures the immediate impression of the participants about the training program.
But, as a trainer, this will have the most bearing on your career.
Most organisations pay the most attention to this – higher levels of feedback usually being non existent.
So you are as good as the scores on that sheet at the end of the session.
You may have done your best but if that does not translate into good scores that will finally reach the client, it all comes to nought.
5. POOR COMMUNITY BONDS
How many trainers do you know personally?
And if asked, how many have candidly shared their experience with you?
The answers to these questions will give you the state of the trainers’ community.
If you ask me, it’s not in a great shape; it has never been.
Other professions have conventions and meets happening regularly with the express purpose of building bonds and helping each other out.
Name one trainers’ convention that brings all of us together and is widely popular – you are likely to draw a blank.
Like I mentioned, times are changing. And if you wish to become a part of this community, I urge you to reach out and strengthen the bonds of community. Foster it at your level.
Here is a post I wrote in 2020 when trainings went virtual and being a trainer requires a new set of skill: Training skills for the virtual world
Do you have more points to add? Do you have questions to ask? You can directly talk to me here
You can also read about the trainer mentoring program that I run for aspiring trainers here.